Up close with the motoring legends of the Automobile Driving Museum

Historic cars like Packards, Studebakers, Cadillacs and MGs fill LA's Automobile Driving Museum. Here's a look inside.

Just south of the Los Angeles International airport is a small but fantastic car museum. The Automobile Driving Museum is packed full of classic cars from throughout the 20th century.

Early cars like immaculately maintained Model Ts sit next to early V12 Packards and Pontiacs. Unlike in many museums, you can get right up to each car. Only a handful of the cars sit behind rope barriers. You can walk all around them, though (sadly) you can't get in them.

One of the main ways the Automobile Driving Museum is different is the cars actually run, and often. Each week select cars are available for rides on the open road.

Check out the gallery below for an up-close look at many of the cars from the museum.

The Automobile Driving Museum is just off the 105 freeway, in an otherwise nondescript business park. In the entrance you're greeted by the friendly employees and a Sebring-Vanguard CitiCar electric car. The wedge shape seems both futuristic and archaic at the same time.

The museum itself is basically just a single open room, about the size of a small aircraft hangar. It has a roughly clockwise progression in time. Entering the main space you're greeted by turn-of-the-20th-century vehicles. Then slowly as you weave your way through them (or around the outside, if you want) you meet the more aerodynamic cars of the late '40s and '50s. A painted mini road on the floor adds a bit of flair.

As the decades increase, there are fewer cars. There are only a handful each from the '70s, '80s and '90s.

One car I was surprised to see was a sixth-generation Mercury Colony Park station wagon, one of the epic land yachts of my youth. Anyone else have memories from the flip-up seats in the back of one of these gigantic boats?

Though I didn't have time during my visit to take a ride in any of the cars, they did move a 1955 Packard that once belonged to actress Jean Peters, given to her by none other than Howard Hughes. It fired up loud and strong. At idle it had a deep, angry rumble, like there was a pack of Harleys under the hood.

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Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

There is one room separate from the rest of the museum, containing a handful of the most expensive cars. Generally, they only let you in with a docent. Inside there are even more Packards, a Pierce-Arrow and a Stutz Monte Carlo with a leatherette exterior.

LA has many excellent car museums, like the Petersen and the Nethercutt. The Automobile Driving Museum is smaller, but inexpensive, and can be done in an afternoon. Definitely worth checking out during a week when they're demoing a car you like.

Or if you're not near LA, check out the gallery above for a taste of what the museum offers.


In his alternate life as a travel writer, Geoff does tours of cool museums and locations around the world including nuclear submarines, medieval castles, iconic music studios and more. You can follow his exploits on Twitter and Instagram, and on his travel blog BaldNomad. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel. Got a tour-worthy spot you think he should check out? Let him know!

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